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Submitted to Guster.net by Kevin from MKE

10-01-2003
Varsity Theatre - Marquette University, Milwaukee, WI


If it wasnít for Sirius Satellite Radio I never would have heard of Guster. Milwaukee, as they say, is a Great City on a Great Lake but it is very musically challenged. (Not only do I know this from my personal experience but the shows a couple of weeks later in both Madison and Chicago had local radio stations promoting them.) We were only so lucky to have the band grace Milwaukee thanks to Marquette University and the college students that typically follow Guster. I post this message because I canít believe no one else posted a review or started a Milwaukee show thread.

As I recall (almost a month and a half later), they entered the stage with a Scottish tune playing as the intro. Ryan looked like he just woke up, wearing a terrible "bed head" hairdo. I have since been to other Guster shows (this show started it all) but this one was very unique because of the small venue that had virtually no character. When seeing this band live there is one thing that rings true: the music by itself is infectious. There were no special effects or video screens to draw your attention (nor did you need them) but lighting does make a difference in the feeling that you get at a concert, as well as the ability to sell beer (or drink it, to loosen up the crowd). Since Marquette had neither a powerful light show nor beer, it was the music and their performance that made it very personal (in this no-frills auditorium). The best way I can put that into words is to say the image that MTV tried to project with its "Unplugged" show vs. a true concert.

The first time Ryan spoke to the audience he told us how we would be getting something from each of the four food groups. He then named off the four Guster albums (and said this would be the last time he used that metaphor, Adam smiled and thankfully nodded). He later talked about how this was the first time they had been back in three years. He must have been referring to playing @ Marquette as I found out later that Guster has previously been here. Anyway, he talked about going around town on his ďbikeĒ earlier that day and going over a bridge that went over an industrial wasteland (probably referring to the new 6th St. viaduct) and going by the Pabst "Castle" (itís really named the Pabst Mansion, from the Pabst family of Pabst Blue Ribbon).

As for the show itself, the venue invited small oddities. Brian got so worked up in one of his feverish congo trances that he was actually drooling (Ryan & Adam were laughing at him), but Ryan didnít escape unscathed as he screwed up the start of the second half of Amsterdam ("From your red balloon you were...") and said, "Fuck." Each show may be a performance but there is an unscripted feeling with Guster that gives it the "live" feeling. The lack of pomp & circumstance makes it real. The set list for the show, taken from the web site, was as follows:

Wish
Careful
Flowers
X-Ray
Happier
Homecoming
Amsterdam
Heaven
I Spy
Airport
K.I.T.
Long Way Down
Barrel
Demons
Fa
********************
Downstairs
Center
Jesus

One of the songs, I forget which one, was supposedly the first time that they had played it live, with so few musicians on stage. Sorry I canít remember it.

As this was my first Guster show, and obviously not my last, I have never seen anyone BEAT something so as to get such cool & amazing sounds from it. (In other words, Brian playing percussion instruments with such passion.) Naturally, all of the members together compose Guster but sometimes just focusing on Brian is worth the ticket price alone. To see his physical movements: head and shoulder rolls, the use of the back & side of his hand, and occasional elbow smash. I canít believe the cymbals donít break into a million pieces each time he smashes them.

The "fourth" Guster, Joe Pisapia, is an amazing musician and I would be remiss if I did not mention him in this review. It is rare to see someone play so many different instruments with such talent. He has been a great addition to the band and will be sorely missed if he goes on his own after this latest tour. Stick around, Joe. Guster was incredible before you came but you add incredible depth (and chemistry) to the band.

The concert ended with an acoustic version of Jesus on the Radio (JOTR). I remember saying how amazing that was. To have them break down that wall of separation, where a band normally stands in the middle of the stage, and now they are standing side by side at the edge of the stage, as four everyday guys singing almost with you was unforgettable. (The acoustic encore of JOTR has been pulled off in other venues, including Chicago a few weeks later, but the entire crowd @ Marquette WAS silent throughout, and the crowd was small enough so that everyone was within earshot.)

- Kevin

P.S. Of course ping pong balls were flying during Airport Song and Lionel Richie (The Commodores) graced the P.A. system as you left the show.

P.P.S. Lastly, a 34 year old guy with a decent career shouldnít be so "into" a band like this. Maybe thatís why I like them so much; they make me forget about life.